Lady Dogs Rout Tigers 81-49

Having dominated every opponent to-date by at least twenty points, and coming off exams week, there were some concerns Mississippi State might be a bit flat the first time back. So the Lady Bulldogs made their own extra motivation for Sunday's home contest with Memphis. "Our big thing was coming out with a chip on our shoulder," explained guard Alexis Rack.

Manufactured motives or not, the theme worked well as Mississippi State routed Memphis 81-49 at Humphrey Coliseum. The Bulldogs jumped to a double-digit lead in less than five minutes and scarcely slowed thereafter in claiming a seventh-straight victory. The Bulldogs' 7-0 record is the second-best start in program history.

And still State players managed to psyche themselves into something of an ‘underdog' state of mind to get their schedule re-started. Guard Mary Kathryn Govero called it playing for more respect. "Just letting them know that we're a force to be reckoned with this year. So just came out and make a statement." Another statement, rather, as MSU's previous wins have been by 42, 24, 23, 33, 30, and 52 points.

Certainly Memphis (5-5) never had a chance, falling behind by double-digits just five minutes into the afternoon and never remotely threatening to make a game of it. "I think our first half was as good as any we've had here in terms of our intensity," Coach Sharon Fanning said. "I could not ask for more."

Point guard Rack topped four State starters in double-figures with 19 points, popping four three-pointers for the day. Govero added 14 points with a couple of trey-balls, while forward Chanel Mokango had 12 points and guard Armelie Lumanu 10 more. Eleven of the dozen Dogs that played scored at least two points.

State started making their statement immediately, with Govero providing the first spark by scoring ten of the first 15 MSU markers including both here three-balls. At the same time Dog defense simply shut the Tigers down and almost out, as all they had to show for the first five minutes were a couple of buckets by Paris Leonard.

Then State got really intense defensively, holding Memphis without a point of any sort from 14:42 to 8:31 when Leonard got another jumper to drop. In-between the whole Dog lineup and rotation got involved in the scoring. Mokango worked in traffic for a couple of tough buckets around a trey from Bethany Washington, and Tysheka Grimes tossed in a long shot of her own at 5:51 to make it a 25-point difference. The intermission margin was 41-19.

Memphis came back with more zone defense in the second period, something of a surprise to State. "We knew they would mix it up, but I don't know if we anticipated it most of the game," Rack said. So the Bulldogs obliged by putting up more long shots and making them, some from the men's longer line. Mokango canned one, blocked a Tiger shot, then stuck another. It was Rack who struck the three-pointers that counted for both the 50th and 60th Bulldog points.

And all the time Fanning was urging her team to play as if it were a close game, not another romp. The coach said later she thought State became complacent on offense as the day wore on, but the players saw another motivation. "She just emphasized not being complacent and not settling for a lead," Govero said. "Because we know in the SEC a lead can turn around and one thing be a swing in momentum."

The Bulldog lead peaked at 34 points, twice, and Memphis never got closer than 19 in the second half. Paris led her club with a game-high 20 points and Ramses Lonlack added 12 more. But the rest of the club was a combined 8-of-23 shooting. State's superior athleticism showed in a 39-35 edge in rebounding, which Fanning thought should have been much better; and six blocked shots, three by Mokango.

"It was good to see balance, and an opportunity for our depth to get minutes," Fanning said. "But I do think we have to be more consistent in how we guard and come off the bench. So I challenge us as a team to step up and get tougher as we hit the road. Because if we're going to get in post-season play we have to get tougher."

For that matter if State is to thrive in an upcoming stretch of road games, starting Tuesday night at Southern Mississippi, the Dogs have to get consistently tougher. That seems odd considering how easily they have had their way with seven-straight victims already, but they are getting good at finding ‘chips' to put on the jersey shoulder in pre-game.

"We've had some big wins in these first few games," Govero said. "But we want let them know it's not a fluke and night-in and night-out let them know we're for real."

Or as Rack explained, "We want to go into January undefeated. So these games mean a lot, about us making a statement."

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